Noctua NF-F12 PWM Cooling Fan

Posted by on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 4:35am

Noctua NF-F12The fan we are reviewing here today will be the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm fan. Noctua has been the recipient of many awards for their fan designs. There are long lasting, quiet and allow the user to install them in many different configurations. However, the F12 takes fan technology to a whole new level. Every physical piece of this fan offers something in the way of science to help make it one of the most efficient fans to date.

Introduction to the Noctua NF-F12 PWM Cooling Fan

It has been quite some time since we last reviewed just a cooling fan without an actual cooler accompanying it. We are not doing that on purpose but we feel that it is hard to review a cooling fan alone unless you have all the proper equipment to test with; namely an anemometer. Without such an item you cannot get one of the most important pieces of information about a fan which is CFM. But because one of our fellow readers feel that getting any information is better than not getting any at all, we have decided to give a couple of fans a shot.

The fan we are reviewing here today will be the Noctua NF-F12 PWM 120mm fan. Noctua has been the recipient of many awards for their fan designs. There are long lasting, quiet and allow the user to install them in many different configurations. However, the F12 takes fan technology to a whole new level. Every physical piece of this fan offers something in the way of science to help make it one of the most efficient fans to date.

Noctua's take on the F12

Teaming up eleven stator guide vanes with a specially conceived seven blade impeller, the NF-F12’s Focused Flow™ system creates outstanding static pressure and focuses the airflow for superior performance on heat sinks and radiators. At the same time, a wide range of advanced aerodynamic design measures, second generation SSO-Bearings and Noctua’s new, custom designed PWM IC for fully automatic control guarantee astounding quietness of operation. The NF-F12 comes with modular cabling, integrated anti-vibration pads and two speed settings for full flexibility. Its commanding performance, exhaustive set of features and Noctua’s trusted premium quality make it an elite choice for use on air coolers, radiators and other pressure demanding applications.



120x120x25 mm




4-pin PWM






Blade Geometry




Frame Technology


Focused Flow™


Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)


1500 RPM


Rotational Speed with L.N.A. (+/- 10%)


1200 RPM


Min. Rotational Speed (PWM)


300 RPM




93,4 m³/h


Airflow with L.N.A.


74,3 m³/h


Acoustical Noise


22,4 dB(A)


Acoustical Noise with L.N.A.


18,6 dB(A)


Static Pressure


2,61 mm H2O


Static Pressure with L.N.A.


1,83 mm H2O


Max. Input Power


0,6 W


Max. Input Current


0,05 A




12 V




> 150.000 h


Scope of Delivery

  • Low-Noise Adapter (L.N.A.)
  • 4-Pin Y-Cable
  • 30cm Extension Cable
  • 4 Vibration-Compensators
  • 4 Fan Screws



6 years



Focused Flow™ Frame Designed for pressure demanding applications such as heatsinks and radiators, the Focused Flow™ frame features eleven stator guide vanes that straighten, channel and focus the airflow, which allows the NF-F12 to rival the performance of conventional fans running at much faster speeds.


Varying Angular Distance and Vortex Control Notches
The NF-F12’s stator guide vanes are set out in Varying Angular Distance and feature Vortex-Control Notches. Both measures help to spread the noise emission over a broader frequency spectrum and thus make the fan’s sound pattern more agreeable to the human ear.


Heptaperf™ Impeller
Custom designed for the new Focused Flow™ frame and to work in tandem with the eleven stator guide vanes, the NF-F12’s seven blade Heptaperf™ impeller has been carefully optimised to achieve a perfect balance between power and quietness.


Stepped Inlet Design
Noctua’s Stepped Inlet Design adds turbulence to the influx in order to facilitate the transition from laminar flow to turbulent flow, which reduces tonal intake noise, improves flow attachment and increases suction capacity, especially in space restricted environments.


Inner Surface Microstructures
With the tips of the fan blades ploughing through the boundary layer created by the Inner Surface Microstructures, flow separation from the suction side of the blades is significantly suppressed, which results in reduced blade passing noise and improved airflow and pressure efficiency.


Integrated Anti-Vibration Pads
Integrated Anti-Vibration Pads made from extra-soft silicone minimise the transmission of minute vibrations while maintaining full compatibility with all standard mounting systems and fan clips used on heatsinks.


SSO2 Bearing
The NF-F12 is the first fan to feature the further optimised second generation of Noctua’s renowned, time-tested SSO bearing. With SSO2, the rear magnet is placed closer to the axis to provide even better stabilisation, precision and durability.


Metal bearing shell
In order to guarantee the highest possible degree of manufacturing precision, minimum tolerance and excellent long-term stability, the NF-F12 sports a CNC milled bearing shell made entirely from brass.


Custom designed PWM IC with SCD
Supporting fully automatic PWM speed control, the NF-F12 uses Noctua’s novel, custom designed NE-FD1 PWM IC that integrates Smooth Commutation Drive (SCD) technology. By providing smoother torque impulses, SCD suppresses PWM switching noises and thus makes the fan quieter at lower speeds. Description: button


Ultra-Low Power Consumption
The NF-F12 draws only 0.6W, which is more than 50% less than many fans in the same speed range. This doesn’t only make it eco-friendly but also cuts down the electricity bill: Compared to a typical 2W fan, this allows you to save about half the price of the NF-F12 after 5 years of continuous use.


Low-Noise Adaptor
The NF-F12 is supplied with a Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) that reduces the maximum fan speed from 1500 to 1200rpm. The L.N.A can be used either to run the fan at a fixed speed of 1200rpm or to cap the maximum speed when using automatic PWM control.


Extensive Cabling Options
The fan’s short 20cm primary cable minimizes cable clutter in typical applications while the supplied 30cm extension provides extended reach when necessary. Both cables are fully sleeved and a 4-pin y-cable allows to connect a second NF-F12 fan to the same PWM fan header for automatic control.


6 years manufacturer’s warranty
Noctua fans are renowned for their impeccable quality and outstanding longevity. Like all Noctua fans, the NF-F12 features an MTBF rating of more than 150.000 hours and comes with a full 6 years manufacturer’s warranty.

Closer look

Noctua has been a fan favorite for a long time now (no pun intended), and you can definitely count me in as one of those fans. It seems that many like what Noctua has to offer, just not necessarily in the way they do it. What I mean about that is the color presentation of their fans, as Noctua chose not to use your typical black or transparent styling; they are burgundy and tan-ish. It is a color combination that I consider classy but it does not fit in every scheme.

First of all, the Noctua F12 as of right now only comes in a 120mm version. If you are in the market for a 140 and want if from Noctua you will have to settle for the P14 FLX, which you can read about here. Aside from that the F12's basic characteristics are very desirable. Out of the box the fan has a rotation of 1500 RPM, which isn't anything different, but it's the way the fan has been designed that makes it so. More on that later though. When used in a PWM environment that fan can spin down to as low as 300 RPM.

The F12 does come with a Low-Noise Adapter, or L.N.A., that will reduce the RPM from 1500 to 1200 RPM. The adapter also reduces the noise level of the fan from 22.4 dBA to 18.6 dBA. The adapter is great added value but in its default form we hear little difference in noise level, it remains quiet either way.

Noctua geared the F12 at being the best fan available for heatsinks and water-cooling applications. The reason for this is because of the high level of static pressure of 2.61mm H2O. The main reason for this due to the Focused Flow system which is simply the grooves that are cut in the vanes to focus airflow in the desired direction, which is straight forward. Consequently, this also eliminates having to resort to using a faster, louder fan.

You may not notice from the images but the blades of the F12 are not angled identically. They range from 31o to 37o angles, meaning as air moves over the blades, the resulting noise that is produced is spread over a larger audible spectrum. Giving the user a sense of a more desirable sound.

This next little feature is known as the Stepped Inlet Design and was something I noticed during the early examination of the fan. The little steps in the corner of the frame allow a small level of turbulence to accord. This works somewhat like the fans with dimples in the fins, but to a lesser extent. Continuing, it allows more air to be funneled in and increases the overall airflow of the fan.

The Inner Surface Microstructures are little recesses in the inner frame walls fan where the blade passes by. These "golf ball dimples" (if you will), force air that hits the frame back into the path of the blades, further increasing the fan's air output just that extra bit.

One of the F12 biggest features is the integrated anti-vibration pads that are attached to each corner of the fan. Obviously the reason for these is to absorb as much of the vibration created by the fan. The rubber made tips are completely removable as needed.

Noctua gives the F12 a six year warranty which is outstanding. The main reason for this is the SSO2 bearing motor is CNC machined from brass making for much tighter tolerances. This results in both less wear due to very minimal shaft play, as well as less vibrational noise.

Lastly, the fan comes with many extra accessories to really help the end user to have a complete system. There is the L.N.A. adapter which we talked about already, a Y-splitter to connect two fans to a single fan header, +30mm extension cable, four screws and four rubber compensators.


It is plain to see that Noctua put a lot of work and effort into the development of the NF-F12 PWM. Often people take fans for granted; many believe that any fan will work in a situation just as long as it meets their needs when it comes to noise level. That is definitely not the truth. While it is true that silence is golden, but so too are CFM and static pressure (under some circumstances).

It is a known fact that when it comes to water-cooling fans with a higher static pressure can increase the performance of the radiator being used. Just as well, the same can be said for most air-coolers as well if it has a high fin density as the fin make up is actually a radiator.

The NF-F12 only comes in a 120mm model as of now. Yet, we definitely would like to see a 140mm unit given that the popularity of 140mm radiators is becoming common, as well as larger coolers that can accommodate larger fans.

Noctua cooling fans are awesome performers but many cannot get past the color scheme. It isn’t a bad combination as it is really tasteful but it isn’t a color match with many PC users’ setup.

The price of the F12 can be in the neighborhood of $20 to $25 making it a fair chunk of change, but well worth every penny.

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